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Congressional spending contingencies 

By Jim Killebrew

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[June 09, 2014]  When I listen to the politicians talking about issues making their way throughout the cycle of the media such as the scandals we have heard about from seemingly a never-ending list, I wonder just what the process is in Congress for actually making laws rather than just talking about them. We are a country that presumably is based on a free-market system that responds to supply and demand for services and products. Yet, we are exceeding 17 Trillion dollars of debt. We are taxing people on just about everything that moves, even though the Department of Labor now reports the jobs that were lost in the recession in 2009 have now been brought back, people everywhere seem to be worse off than they were before the recession.

The American people seemingly have finally figured out that something Ronald Reagan said two decades ago about the lack of money not being the problem, but the problem is the amount of government taking more of the taxpayer's money is the problem. We have career politicians churning out the laws and bills in Congress at a rate that is staggering in proportion to what used to happen. Remember when Nancy Pelosi told her colleagues in the House, as well as the American people, that we needed to pass the Obama Affordable Care Act so we could read it to find out what was in it? It never occurred to her cognitively that perhaps she had it backwards; maybe she and her fellow democrats should have read it first and then considered if it was worthy of passing. But, alas, a document of over 20 thousand pages cannot be read and understood in such a short time as allowed to read such a document. That has become the norm for pushing through a bill to pass a law, so long and cumbersome with legal jargon as to not be understood by most people other than attorneys.

Perhaps we should look at the virtue of brevity regarding the laws of our land. There are only 482 words in the entire Bill of Rights which consist of the first 10 Amendments of the Constitution. In those 482 words American citizens are granted the rights of no government religion, freely practicing religion, right to bear arms, prohibiting military from taking over personal citizens' homes, prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures without warrants, protects from false indictments, lays out rules for eminent domain, grants due process, right to fair and speedy trial by jury, trial by jury in civil cases, prohibits excessive fines and excessive bail and unusual punishment, protects rights not enumerated in the Constitution and limits the powers of the federal government to those delegated to it by the Constitution. Some time ago I saw a picture that contained some thoughts regarding what a bill should be before it is passed by Congress to make its way toward becoming a law.

The bill Congress considers should focus on only one issue at a time rather than an all-encompassing array of bills contained in one document. No bill should exceed ten pages of focused material. When bills contain thousands of pages there is a scramble for the Congressmen and Congresswomen to try to read it. More likely than not they rely on their Congressional aides to read the material and then provide summaries of the more important parts of the bill. The problem encountered with that method is that multiple perceptions of party politics play a big part in the interpretation of the bill which results in nothing more than a free-for-all debate that never really focuses on the true content of the bill.

Another requisite of the bill should be a reference made from the Constitution that authorizes that particular bill. That clearly states up front what the bill is about and how it is to be interpreted from specific references to the Constitution. It establishes the intent of the bill and helps in future arguments regarding challenges that may occur, even from the Supreme Court's perspective as they make the final decision regarding the Constitutionality of the law.

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A further consideration for the bill should be the content and focus of the bill to be directly correlated with the title of the bill. The content should reflect the purpose of the bill, again with no more than 10 pages, and relate directly to the title. That would keep the bill focused and prevent the tributaries of legalese from tainting the real meaning.

The language of the bill should be written in diction that is in layman's terms and is easy for any citizen with a modicum of education to understand. It is sort of like reading the Bill of Rights written in language easily understood so the meaning of the words convey the actual content and is not hidden within a mountain of legalities referring to numerous other documents with extensive footnotes and references. The legal terms tend to distract to the actual intent of the law and deflects most from reading it from a point of understanding. If a person needs an example of the impossibility of understanding, pick up any set of laws published in the Congressional Record and read them for content and understanding.

Another component of any bill passed by Congress should contain the total cost of the implementation of the bill and the process needed to pay for the implementation of the bill. Those costs should be identified and the process by which the funding is to be secured to pay for the components of the bill. The United States has not become so indebted to the tune of over 17 Trillion dollars by not borrowing funds to implement the laws of the land. Any bill coming out of Congress should have a price tag attached to it and how it should be paid for and by whom.

Not only should the cost of the bill be forthright, and who will be footing the cost of the bill for the implemented law, but it should also contain an accompanying list of who will benefit from the implementation of the law. Not just the recipients of the specific program of what the bill covers, but the sponsor of the bill and the direct benefit to that particular person, if any.

Finally, if there is an appropriation needed for the bill to be enacted, the bill must contain a date when the bill expires. There should be time limits placed on any appropriation process other than just a perpetual annualized cost. If the bill has established an excise tax of any kind it should be time-limited or have full justification regarding why it would not be. Provisions should accompany the bill to establish the conditions under which the expenditures may be made and the guidelines for accountability for the agency spending the funds appropriated for the implementation of the bill.

Spending must be brought under control since the over-budget spending cannot continue indefinitely without a significant breakdown of our economic system.


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